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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Hebrews 5

Verses 1-14

As we enter chap. 5 we are reminded that the high priest was taken from among men and set apart to minister on their behalf in things having to do with God. He was to present his brethren’s gifts and sacrifices for sins. Note the distinction. On the cross our Lord presented the sacrifice for sins. In Heaven now, He offers our gifts of worship and praise.

The earthly priest, because himself a man and as infirm as any of his brethren, could have compassion on the ignorant and on those who wandered from the path of rectitude. Conscious of his own failures, it was necessary that he should offer a propitiatory sacrifice for himself as well as for the people. In this we see the superiority of our great High Priest, who needed no offering for Himself, but gave Himself in love for others.

In Hebrews 5:4 we are reminded that no man was entitled to constitute himself a high priest. He became such by divine call, as in the case of Aaron who was chosen of God and set apart for this high office. Even so, Christ did not make Himself High Priest, but God the Father recognized Him as such when He declared in the words of Psalms 2:0, “Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee.” His Priesthood, however, was not of the Levitical order but of a different character altogether, even as it is written in Psalms 110:4, “Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” What is really involved in this we shall see when we come to consider chapter 7. It is enough to point out here that Melchisedec was recognized as priest of the most high God centuries before the Levitical priesthood came into existence. This latter, like the legal covenant with which it was connected, came in only “by the way,” and had its place until the Son, who was to fulfil the Melchisedec type, should come.

In Hebrews 5:7-10 the Spirit again emphasizes the reality of His Manhood and His participation in all the sinless experiences of His people. “In the days of His flesh,” when He was here on earth in human condition, He trod the path of faith and took the place of dependence on the Father, “offering up prayers and supplications,” accompanied by “strong crying and tears, unto Him who was able to save Him out of death.” For, be it observed, He was not saved from dying nor did He ever pray to be saved from death, nor did He fear death. He came into the world to die, for that very purpose; but He was brought up from death, being raised by the power of God. What a testimony those tears were to the reality of His Manhood! Three times we read of His weeping. He wept at the grave of Lazarus as He contemplated the awful ravages that death had made, tears of loving sympathy. He wept as He looked upon Jerusalem and His prophetic soul saw the tribulations through which the devoted city must pass. And He wept in Gethsemane’s garden as His holy soul shrank from drinking the cup of divine indignation against sin, when He should hang upon the cross. While the cup could not be averted, nevertheless He was heard “for His piety,” that is, not as some have said, in the removing of that which He feared, but rather because of His godly fear, His reverence for the Father’s will. And thus He who is the Eternal Son who never knew what subjection meant, became Man, and as He trod the pilgrim path of suffering and rejection down here, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. It is not that His will had to be subdued, but that from the moment when He assumed humanity He entered into new experiences, and He who had always commanded learned practically what obedience meant.

And thus being perfected as the Captain of Salvation, according to Hebrews 2:10, which we have already considered, He has become the Author of eternal salvation unto all them who follow Him in the obedience of faith, having been saluted of God in resurrection as High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.

How carefully the Holy Ghost guards against the least suggestion of defilement in His nature while insisting upon the reality of His humanity. Great indeed is the mystery of godliness, for He, the Holy One, has been manifested in flesh. And now as the exalted Priest, He enters into all the sorrows of His people, sympathizing with them in all their infirmities. He does not sympathize with our sins, and indeed, we would not wish Him to, but He does feel for us in all our weakness and is waiting to supply needed strength for every trial.

Section B. Hebrews 5:11-14; Hebrews 6:1-20

Warning Against Apostasy. Safety Only in Resting upon the Word of God

We are now to consider one of those portions of the writings of “our beloved brother Paul,” as Peter calls him, “wherein are some things hard to be understood, which those that are ignorant and unstable wrest to their own destruction.” Probably there is no part of the Word of God that has stumbled immature and uninstructed Christians like that which is before us. Therefore the need of examining it with the utmost care.

The closing part of Hebrews 5:11-14, is plain enough. Immediately upon bringing in the name of Melchisedec the apostle declares: “Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” The truth of the Melchisedec priesthood of our Lord Jesus would be most unpalatable to Jewish tastes, and difficult of apprehension where one was under legalistic bondage. We have only to consult the book of Acts, particularly in connection with Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, to realize how backward thousands of Hebrew believers were in the years immediately preceding the destruction of the Holy City and the manifest setting aside of the temple ritual. Those who, for the time that had elapsed since their conversion, ought to have been well able to teach others, were themselves needing instruction in the most elementary truths of the Word of God. They had not even grasped the distinction between Israel’s hopes which are earthly, and those of the Church which are heavenly. Neither had they realized the transitory and shadowy character of the Levitical economy in contrast with the permanency of the Christian revelation. They were ignorant of the first principles of the oracles of God, still requiring milk and unable to digest strong meat. They were babes in the truth when they should have been mature believers. The time had come to insist upon the setting aside of Judaism and going on to the full truth of Christianity. And so it is to this great step they are called as the sixth chapter opens.

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.